I love building universes. I didn’t realise this until quite recently, but whenever I start writing a new project half of the fun is in creating the characters and, more specifically, the world they inhabit. Case in point, and I keep coming back to this, but my current and ongoing work with my Adventures of Trent Samuels audio series.
As I’ve stated elsewhere on the Random Stoat blog (I’ll be copying those posts over to this blog in due course), the project started as a loving homage to the old science fiction serials from the 1930s-1940s. 15 minute episodes with a cliffhanger ending that would be swiftly resolved at the beginning of the next episode. My original idea was to stick very closely to that format, leaving the characters as 2D caricatures and not developing the story beyond its very basic premise. As time has gone on and the project remains in a vague state of production limbo (all my own fault), I’ve been tinkering with the story on and off to the point where the universe now has depth
Trent Samuels is set in an alternate 2007 where space travel is possible and other worlds near to Earth, relatively speaking, support life. One of these is the planet Sponge, a dry planet ruled with an iron fist by Tony The Absorber (see what I did there?). Sponge has a feudal system, with many smaller kingdoms under Tony’s all ruling empire. Tony is the main villain for the first two series, then a few of the smaller villain from lower down the food chain get their chance to try killing Trent.
As part of the first series, Tony The Absorber (originally a cardboard copy of Ming The Merciless who has since become a unique character in his own right) steals a huge amount of water from Earth resulting in widespread ecological damage and political upset. Admittedly I didn’t do a huge amount of research for this, but I used a global water level simulator to determine what the planet would look like if water levels were reduced by 500 metres. The results were interesting, to say the least. South America and Africa, South Africa in particular, are the winners as far as additional land mass is concerned. The same also applies to the islands in and around the Philippines and the UK, which would see a massive increase in available land.
Now, on top of this I also decided that in this alternate 2007 the world would be governed by a single global government as a result of warfare between the USA and the USSR during our Cold War period. The resultant nuclear warfare wiped out both nations, with the eastern USSR forming New Russia and Canada annexing Alaska and forming Canadia. The lower sea levels also lead to the return of a land bridge between the nations of New Russia and Canadia. Silly I know, but it gets better – due to the reduction of water levels in Trent series 1, Australia and New Zealand are left uninhabitable. If you also factor in that the Amazon rainforest has now become a giant Amazon warehouse and that Japan has gained sentience and flown off into space (with its entire population safely ensconced in protective domes), you can see that I’m possibly a little bit odd. In fact, scratch the “possibly”.
I’ll admit that as far as the characters go, they’re all still mostly caricatures. But they do have a bit more to them than when I first started the project. I think if I tried to give them too much history or unique characteristics it would detract from the original intention of the series. An intertwined narrative is almost necessary these days, but there’s a certain charm to having archetypes just going about their business, saving the universe and all that. I also like to leave a little bit to the audience’s imagination. World building is fun, but you don’t want to give away everything.